How often have you logged onto your social media accounts and encountered conflict lately? Do you avoid certain topics at work or social gatherings to avoid conflict? When was the last time you ‘went along to get along’? Think of the last meeting you went to ready to do battle with a colleague. To some degree, we have all experienced at least one of these scenarios or maybe all of them. Conflict is just part of life.
As much as it is true that conflict is part of life, most people I have encountered don’t like it or at least don’t view it as a positive and enjoyable part of life. This short six-part series on conflict communication aims to help you redefine how you view conflict and provide you with some simple and easy ways to engage in conflict to ensure mutual growth and creative solutions both personally and at work.
One of my favorite definitions of conflict, “perceived incompatible goals”, is provided by Hocker & Wilmot (2018). The word “perceived” has always resonated with me and for a good reason. My experience as an individual, a leader, a coworker, a wife, a mother, and a teacher of conflict and mediation, substantiates the reality that more often than not, conflict issues revolve around issues of perceptions.
I distinctly remember a conflict that emerged in an administrative group I managed. The group spent weeks hashing over the issue only to realize that both sides wanted the same thing. Each side just approached the solution from different angles. As a young leader at the time, I didn’t know how to “perceive” the goals of each party to help them “see” each other’s perspectives more clearly.
I have also found that I am far more sensitive to conflict in my personal life. The amount of affection I feel for someone directly influences my willingness to engage in more competitive or aggressive conflict tactics. I prefer harmony over discord, and when my emotions are more involved, I feel the discord far more readily and deeply. As we move through this series, I will bring some of these things forward as examples and provide some simple ways to navigate them. Next month we will review the different styles of conflict. Stay tuned!
How would you define conflict? Does the definition provided here resonate with you? Share in the comments!
See next the next post on conflict styles.
Contributed by Liz Hunt
Hocker, J.L., & Wilmot, W.W. (2018). Interpersonal Conflict. 10th Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.